Why we love Norse lore, history and culture

I felt it was worth putting together a post explaining why we do this; what draws us to everything Norse. For some, it’s a curiosity; for others it encompasses their religion and beliefs.

As the organiser of the event, I want to speak to you about why this is important to me, followed by the thoughts and feelings of others involved in or interested in the community and the event, to better understand just why this means so much to us. Thanks for reading.

My thoughts – Alex, organiser of Norsevember, history BA and book blogger

I’m not particularly religious, but I have such a love and appreciation for the lore of what is popularly called ‘Norse Mythology.’

The Gods that the Norse people followed were flawed, wrathful, selfish. Just like us. There is a raw quality to the way they followed and worshipped their Gods and a very ‘live fast, die young’ standpoint to their outlook. Their Gods – or at least some of them – know that Ragnarok will come and the end will be upon them. Their followers know their Gods will be defeated; there’s a realism and acceptance in that. An acknowledgement that humans aren’t important – even the Norse Gods make mistakes, lose and die.

Whilst I don’t advocate giving up on self preservation and seeking an early death (especially as I believe this is the only life we have), The Norse, especially the warriors, believed our end is always fated and written by the Norns. Why worry about what might happen? Live, and live passionately. Make your peace with your fate, because it was always going to be so. They were of course obsessed with legacy and stories. A short life well remembered was better than an uneventful and long life forgotten – and I like that sentiment, even if it’s not one that should necessarily drive all of your life choices.

It does however feel like there is a message that you should strive to make a difference and burn brightly while you are here because you don’t know what the future holds.

I’m also close to Viking history in the area I was born in, at the heart of medieval Mercia and there is just something (especially on those cold misty mornings) magical about the British countryside, that exports me back to a place where people worshipped the Old Gods and at a later time when Christianity had taken hold, those Old Gods came roaring back in the form of the Vikings, changing the country’s history forever.

I love history, and through their beliefs is one way we can gain an insight into how the Norse lived and what life meant to them. I love learning about the Vikings but there is also so much more to know and to strive to learn. This event hopefully brings people closer to a little more knowledge than they had before – a time period and people for whom even the experts are still often shrouded in darkness.

Norsevember is fully inclusive and has a zero tolerance policy towards hate, especially when any reference is made to Viking era history, lore and culture.

Poland, where I come from, taught me that God found me repulsive. I had no choice but to convince myself this God didn’t exist – or accept that I didn’t deserve to exist. I moved to the Netherlands in 2006 to escape those “teachings,” remaining an atheist… and a disgustoid – you don’t heal twenty-nine years of brainwashing with a finger snap. Eight years later I discovered the Norse Gods were more than their Marvel caricatures; I began to read their stories, research, learn who they are and what the Gods are like. How they cheat, lie, lose their hammers and tie goats to their testicles. (Who did that last one? You have one guess.)

Thor became the father figure I’ve never had before. Odin taught me to follow my goals (and, luckily, did not deem me worthy of Valhalla, for those Odin chooses die young). Freya, the Goddess of love and war, showed me why and how those two go together. Heimdall protected me. Týr proved to me that sometimes justice doesn’t mean me winning. Loki told me not to switch off my computer installing update 3 out of 67 when I was in the hurry to leave the house. The Gods evolve with time, same as we do, always one step in front of us – in that way, Marvel got it right. As countless re-tellings prove, twelve centuries later we still want to hear and be inspired by the culture that remains just out of our grasp. There’s always more to learn.

Something I value about Norsevember is how expansive it is. Far from just countless stories about Loki, it’s history, research, the fantastic and the real (why not both, this heathen asks?) Slaying the image of the Manly Norsemen spending their entire waking time doing Manly Killing, Raping, Burning, and Pillaging. And, of course, the inclusivity – the lore, history, culture are here for us all to learn, marvel, and laugh at. No matter what certain small groups have to say, we’re all welcome at this feast. (“As long as you bring beer and don’t touch my motorbike” – Thor)

Bjørn Larssen, author of Children and Creation
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“In my second year of college I started taking Swedish language classes because my grandfather was from Sweden. The next year, I lived in Uppsala for four months and decided to do a Scandinavian Studies minor with my History degree. I took a class on the Old Norse language my first semester back in the States, and that was it – the rest was history. I spent the rest of my undergraduate experience obsessed with the Norse myths and Icelandic sagas, even co-founding Scandinavian Club and Icelandic Saga Club at my university. When I was accepted to my dream graduate program at the University of Iceland and couldn’t fund it due to my massive debt from undergrad, I was devastated. Luckily, I ended up finding a Viking reenactment group in my area and channeled my passion into learning more about Viking Age material culture; I came into living history knowing plenty about the myths and legends, but not much about their everyday lives. I don’t even remember my life before the Vikings took it over, but I would never go back.” – Genevieve Gornichec, author of The Witch’s Heart

“In the old days, before streaming, before DVD, and even as far back as the times before videos, television was in the dark ages, particularly on a Saturday afternoon, a young boys entertainment consisted of scanning the channels (it didn’t take long as there was only three of them and it took longer to get his backside off the settee or the floor where he was lying prostrate than pressing the buttons on the rented television set), where he avoided the sport and firmly pressed number 2 for the Saturday afternoon matinee.
He sat transfixed as blaring horns and the proclamation that this afternoon s glorious piece of television would be presented in glorious technicolour, and would be starting Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas in a ripping adventure called The Vikings! Oh, how he marvelled at the longboats, the energetic fight scenes, he hissed as the bad guy, Kirk Douglas, hatched evil plans against Tony Curtis.
Come Monday, when he returned to school, he was immediately at the school library, scouring the shelves for anything he could find about The Vikings. He learnt about how they traversed the sea in search of plunder, but more than that, he learnt about the gods, the culture and the other things the Vikings did.
And I have to say, dear reader, this is where my fascination for all things Norse related actually started.
I have always been intrigued by the Viking Culture, not only the obvious things like the representations in history, but also the religion, Gods & mythologies, and also even down to culture, clothing, farming – everything really!” – Fantasy Book Nerd, Blogger

“From an early age I was always interested in mythology of one sort or another, maybe due to Ray Harryhausen’s work on movies such as Jason and the Argonauts, which I loved as a child. My interest in Norse mythology was really born during a trip to Iceland my husband and I took before we had kids. I fell in love with the place and the people. We were told that a substantial number of the population still believed in fairies and trolls and it seemed like a magical place. I started to read the tales of the Norse gods and found them fascinating and I still do…” – Sue Bavey, Blogger

“When I’m studying and working with the Norse stories, I feel at home. There’s something deeply complicated and honest about them that I think reflects the climate they were born from. Bleak horizons, too many ways that things could go wrong, and carving a good time out of a bad situation. Having grown up in small-town Canada in a financially challenged family, I identified a lot with the atmosphere and took comfort in it. And like so many of us, the people in these stories are the flawed, misguided heroes of their own tales. What could be more human than that?” – Cat Rector, Author of Goddess of Nothing At All

“The first thing that drew me into Norse mythology and history was the landscape. It’s a beautiful, rugged place that feeds my soul and begs to be filled with epic stories. When I went digging to find out who lived in these amazing places I found people who could battle as easily with poetry as they would with axes and who would trade with the furthest reaches of the known world. I’m always amazed by how epic and relatable Norse mythology is and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of learning about Norse history, culture, and mythology.” – Alex Bradshaw, author of Windborn

“For me norse lore beautifully melts the terrifying and the awesome together. It’s a weaving of bearded men and strong women that fills me with the type of feeling I used to get when having a fairy tale read to me as a child.” – Paperback Bex, Blogger

“I have always been a fan of mythology! I took a mythology elective in high school and learned about so many different cultures and their mythologies. There’s obviously a lot of focus on Greek mythology and although I love it, I wanted to dive deeper into some of the other mythologies. I had read a few books and watched some shows with Nordic themes but Alex’s launch of Norsevember really enabled and pushed me to actively seek out books and learn more about Norse mythology. I have fallen in love with it! There’s a huge sense of community during this time and it’s so exciting to me. Norse mythology the perfect blend for someone who loves historical fiction and fantasy. I especially love learning about Loki because who doesn’t love a trickster bad boy? I also enjoy the current trend across mythologies of focusing on less-featured women and giving them more of a narrative; for this, I highly recommend The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec!” – Cassidee, blogger at FanFiAddict and on IG at Cassidee.Omnilegent

“Christianity never took with me, despite attending services pretty regularly as a child. For that matter, I never bought into Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny either. I was a pretty rational kid, although I was drawn to the occult at an early age, due in large part to a book I discovered when I was eight years old — Unseen Forces by Manly Palmer Hall.

Unseen Forces described elemental beings and spirits that interacted with the material world and I began to formulate a belief in magic and these preternatural intelligences as a result. Soon after I discovered a book by Padraic Colum — The Children of Odin.

In this retelling of Norse Myths, I was introduced to what I realized was the deities of my ancestors. Of course, I knew these myths to be as fanciful as those from the religion of my parents, as full of whimsy as the myths of an egg-laying rabbit and a jolly old fat man… but, within those stories of Odin and Thor and Freya lay links to those sort of spirits I had come to accept, the land and water wights, and I imagined that the gods themselves did truly exist, but that they were my actual ancestors and they achieved a sort of godhood through our reverence of them, and they became aligned with elemental forces.

What I didn’t know then was that I was embracing animism.

I have honored the gods and spirits of my Northern European ancestors now for 47 years. And, while that belief has evolved much over those years, I have never wavered in my belief that I am a single thread in a tapestry that connects all of us of like descent.” – Bob Freeman, Author, blogger and Animist

“I’ve always had an interest in history and developed an interest in mythology from lightly touching the topic back in primary school, although that was Egyptian. In secondary school I began to also read about Greek and Norse Mythology.
I only heavily dove back into Norse Mythology after going to York for a book signing and learning about the Jorvik Viking Festival (February half term), where some popular myths and stories are acted out on street stages, reenactment volunteers wandering about in historical gear (including weapons), a traders market, craft sessions, the museum and even a pop-up bar tent called the “Nine Realms bar”.
I love the atmosphere, topic, and influences you can see in modern day York when I visit.” – Masquereads, Book Blogger

“As a Scandinavian, I grew up with the Norse tales. To me, they are a piece of home. A way to connect to the place where I grew up. The nine worlds are always there with stories as full of comfort to me as a warm fire on a winter night.” – Thilde Kold Holdt, author of The Hanged God Trilogy

“I consider myself a spiritual person and the lore and mythology of the Norse World resonates with me strongly, after all it is a world built on stories and none is better than that. The Volsunga Saga was the first saga I came across and it is a story I will never forget! I don’t really have a favourite Norse God or Goddess as they are all equally wonderful.” – Peter, Book Blogger at The Swordsmith

“I fell in love with their storytelling. The stories themselves are captivating, humorous, and inspiring…but just thinking about how they gathered in their halls to share those stories about gods, heroes, kings, and even fellow farmers—that is what affects me more. The way they used them to entertain themselves, remember the past, and imagine a brighter future is, I believe, a special glimpse at their humanity.” – Steven at Fjorn’s Hall

“You can spend your entire childhood thinking that vikings are super cool and that people who don’t like them are totally crazy and really missing out and then you get a little older and make the mistake of taking an archaeology class in college and your short Thanksgiving break gets blown to bits by a 430-page tome like Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga that must be read in only four days. And that’s when the real addiction begins and you find yourself doing things like reading Eddas and learning Swedish in your own spare time and before long it all spins out of control and you create a low-grade blog about vikings and start writing Norse history lessons in a Boston accent and then it’s just an irrevocable downward spiral from there. But maybe I’m just speaking for myself.” – Rowdy Geirsson, Norse blogger

“When I found the Norse gods, it felt like coming home. I had spent the past four years looking for something to replace the Christianity which was all I had ever known with something that made sense, and suddenly here were these gods who actually looked like the world I lived in. Loki, a trickster who was trying to do good, just makes so much more sense than a devil. An imperfect Allfather makes so much more sense than a perfect god.

I found the runes at the same time, and I spent the next several months writing everything in a younger futhark. I got multiple detentions because I turned in multi-page papers written in runes. Why *wouldn’t* my teachers want to teach themselves an entire new alphabet in order to determine whether I understand the Steinbeck I had just read?” – Perseus, teacher of Asatru Lore and Rune enthusiast

“I’ve kind of always been interested in history—my parents taught me to enjoy it as a kid—but I’m almost embarrassed to admit I first got into “viking history” because of video games. The Vikings were one of my favorite groups to play as in ‘Age of Empires II’. As I got older, I learned more about vikings and norse mythology and discovered that behind the facade of all the stereotypes, there were rich stories and history. The Norse people weren’t just raiders, but explorers, traders, farmers, artists, craftsmen, poets, storytellers… The Norse myths are beautiful stories of love, loss, learning, sacrifice, war, peace, trickery, truth, sadness, and joy. There is a reason we are still talking about the Norse people and their myths.” – Joseph, Artist and Norse Enthusiast

I hope you enjoyed reading some of these thoughts. If you have any of your own stories to tell, we’ll be listening.


One thought on “Why we love Norse lore, history and culture

  1. I think it’s so sad that Perseus got detention for turning in papers written in runes! That is just … so horrible. ___? should have been encouraged for having an interest! That is just such an awesome thing to do!!

    (Even if I don’t know any of the Norse runes, and the more different mythologies I find, the less the Norse one is of particular interest – but the sentiment, “Live well, die young” — sure, dying young isn’t necessarily a good goal but it would be good to have more of that sentiment around! I think it’s actually quite common, pre-modern world and the takeover of a depraved religion that was all about the fear of a place of eternal torment.

    Liked by 1 person

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